Inside the Spice Cabinet: Sumac

Inside the Spice Cabinet: Sumac

Kelli Foster
Oct 1, 2016
(Image credit: Oliver Wilde/Shutterstock)

Sumac! No, I'm not talking about the wild stuff growing in your backyard that once gave you an itchy rash. While it is related, the sumac I'm talking about is far from poisonous, and makes a wonderfully delicious addition to any spice cupboard.

What Is Sumac?

Taste: Sour
Most Popular Use: Spice blends, dry rubs, salads

The sumac bush, native to the Middle East, produces deep red berries, which are dried and ground into coarse powder. The spice was long used in Europe to add tartness to many dishes until the Romans introduced lemons to the area. While it's less common, the berries may also be sold whole. Ground sumac is a versatile spice with a tangy lemony flavor, although more balanced and less tart than lemon juice. A small sprinkle also adds a beautiful pop of color to any dish.

Ground sumac is widely available in Middle Eastern markets, and little by little it's making its way into the spice aisle of grocery stores. Store ground sumac in an airtight container, away from heat and light.

How To Use Sumac

Sumac is a widely used, essential spice in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cooking. It's used in everything from dry rubs, marinades, and dressing. But its best use is sprinkled over food before serving.

It pairs well with vegetables, grilled lamb, chicken and fish. Sumac is one of the main components in the spice mix za'atar, and is used as a topping on fattoush salad, and makes a nice topping on dips like hummus.

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